Are Fridays Getting Less Casual?

We’re all familiar with the concept of "casual Friday." In fact, on most Fridays here at the Chamber, we’re allowed to wear jeans if we donate a few dollars to our designated charity of the month. But here’s an intriguing post from Ragan’s PR Daily revealing that workers may be less apt to dress down for fear of seeming unprofessional. Obviously, it depends upon one’s industry and employer, but here’s some news that may disappoint the people at Guess (tight-rolled Guess jeans are still cool for guys to wear, right? Just asking because they go really well with my I.O.U. sweatshirts):

Lately, however, when I look around the train on a Friday morning, the commuters no longer appear to be dressing down; in the age of the economic downturn and increased job insecurity it seems that “casual Fridays” are becoming a thing of the past.

This is due not to businesses’ formally restricting the uniform of employees, but rather to employees’ making the decision themselves that dressing more casually on a Friday—or any given day—might affect their performance and job security.

A survey by U.K. work wear provider Alexandra found that 94 percent of respondents say that the way they dress can influence the outcome of the economy.

More than 90 percent of respondents said a person’s attire determines how professional and trustworthy they look. Nearly 40 percent said “scruffy clothing” at work hurts performance.

The results demonstrate that employees prefer to wear the same sort of clothing on a Friday as they would any other day of the workweek because they think it will help them win more business and increase sales. In “The Devil Wears Prada,” Anne Hathaway’s character isn’t taken seriously until she conforms to the image of a budding fashionista. Alexandra’s study suggests that image isn’t limited to the fashion industry and can be very important for other sectors, such as professional services.

Dress For Success shows exactly how important image is to securing a job. This global organization provides disadvantaged women with a suit prior to an interview to help boost their confidence and give them the tools to thrive in work and life.

Disadvantaged women are referred to Dress For Success by a diverse group of not-for-profit and government agencies, and in 2011 up to 3,000 organizations sent women for the professional apparel and career development services that it offered.

Once a woman has secured the job, she is invited back for additional clothing, which she can use to build a professional wardrobe. It shows the importance of our apparel on our employment status and on our performance once we’ve landed a job.

‘Tis the Season for Networking, Making the Most of Your Holiday Party

A recent non-scientific survey found that nearly 70% of organizations are expected to hold some type of holiday event in the coming weeks. More than half (55%) are doing some on a workday or near the end of the day. Most (60%) limit the festivities to employees only and less than a third (30%) are staying on-site.

No matter the type, size or location, these events are often meaningful to employees. They can also be beneficial for the individuals who play the game correctly. A few tips from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas:

  • Arrive early:  This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
  • Work the room:  It is easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
  • Do not over indulge:  Free alcohol can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything embarrassing to you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions do not get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
  • Be friendly, but not too friendly:  The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
  • Avoid talking business:  This is not the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection will help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
  • Attend other companies’ parties:  If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go.  It is an opportunity to expand your professional network, which  is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.

Signing Off

How do you sign your professional e-mails? A writer at Ragan’s PR Daily tackled this interesting question. Personally, I prefer to use "Best,"; "Thank you,"; or "Kisses from your snuggle munchkin,".

I’ve become obsessed with how people sign off on their emails and determining which signoff is the best. It seems like there should be some kind of industry standard on how to sign a business email, or maybe a few choices for clients, your boss, your co-workers, your vendors, etc.

Given the variety I see daily, it’s clear that no one agrees on one best way.

Recently, I asked about this topic on Twitter and Facebook and the answers were not only varied, but in some cases the topic got heated, especially when I explained my unadulterated hatred for “Best.”

Who knew people were so passionate about the way they sign off on emails?

Here are some of the responses I received:

• Most sincerely yours
• Thanks
• Best
• All the best
• Best Regards
• Warm Regards
• Regards
• Warmest Regards
• Thank you
• Yours truly
• Sincerely
• Cheers
• Truly
• Very truly
• Warmly
• None

I am not a fan of any of these.

The word “best,” or anything describing the warmness of the sender’s regards, is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I tend to use “thanks” for an informal email and “thank you” for more formal.

I didn’t have a better alternative, until a colleague told me about her favorite signoff: “~ plus first name.”

I love it because it avoids the awkwardness of pledging yourself (“truly yours”) to your copy paper vendor and maintains a business tone to the email. Plus, it doesn’t look too formal or unfriendly.

I am going to start a petition for “~ plus first name” to become the industry standard for signing business emails. Who is with me? And who has other signoffs to suggest or ridicule?

Give Your Coworkers a Break Room Break

Go to 100 different businesses, and I venture you would find that 99 have some type of break room disputes taking place. Maybe there are few surprises here in this OfficeTeam survey, but it at least confirms what many are experiencing.

Any horror stories to share? Favorites from the tip list below?

Forty-four percent of workers interviewed said making a mess for others to clean up is the most annoying break room behavior.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, which of the following is the most annoying workplace break room behavior?” Their responses:

  • Making a mess for others to clean up – 44%
  • Stealing a coworker’s food – 19%
  • Leaving expired/spoiled food in the refrigerator – 18%
  • Eating smelly food – 5%
  • Nothing annoying/no break room – 7%
  • Other/don’t know – 7%

“Many people believe their actions in the break room go unnoticed, but subtle behaviors can send a message about an individual’s consideration for others,” said OfficeTeam executive director Robert Hosking. “Leaving messes in a common area will have colleagues wondering whether you’re just as careless in other aspects of the job.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips for minding your manners in the lunch room:

  • Remember what your mother told you. If you spill something in the microwave or on the counter, wipe it up. It’s also common courtesy to refill anything you’ve emptied in the kitchen, such as the coffee pot or napkin dispenser.
  • Spare the air. You may love the smell of your famous “seafood surprise,” but your neighbors might not share your enthusiasm. Avoid bringing extremely pungent foods to the office that could offend your colleagues’ olfactory senses.
  • Stake your claim. Label your food with your name and the date. This will ward off break room bandits and make it obvious when the item should be thrown away.
  • Get the hint. Schedule alerts on your calendar so you’ll remember to take home or toss out leftovers or groceries from the refrigerator. This will help free up storage space for coworkers.
  • Do a little dirty work. Clean up around the break room even if someone else created the mess. By simply picking up a piece of trash or wiping a table, you’ll set an example for others to follow and create a more pleasant and potentially safer environment for your colleagues. If you see an ongoing issue with break room etiquette, consider asking management to implement a staff policy or reinforce the rules of conduct.